The unsung heroes

11th May 2007 at 01:00
Politicians are finally waking up to the importance of FE in reviving Scotland's economy

COLLEGE VOICES must be heard in the reforms of the curriculum, one of their leading figures demanded at a conference in Edinburgh last week.

Graeme Hyslop, principal of Langside College in Glasgow, who was a member of the review group which produced A Curriculum for Excellence, claimed he was invited to take part as a representative of the FE sector as an "afterthought".

He declared: "It is a three to 18 curriculum, so we should be there."

Scotland could be on the cusp of a truly comprehensive education system, he said, if schools and colleges fostered even greater links to solve what he called the "dissonance" between them.

Mr Hyslop added: "Colleges are getting praised for picking up the refuseniks, while the schools are getting criticised for losing them because they are going to colleges."

He pointed out that the FE sector was already working more closely with schools, with 16 of the 28 Skills for Work projects involving colleges. The recent election campaign offered him hope, with all the main parties acknowledging the key role colleges have to play in Scotland's economy - a move he described as a "paradigm shift".

Mr Hyslop said: "We never used to be mentioned - when we were, it was as a problem; now it is as the solution. I heard Jack McConnell say colleges are the unsung heroes and pivotal to solving Scotland's economic problems.

Politicians are still very school-centric but, in the last few weeks of the election campaign, they woke up to what colleges can do."

In his speech, Mr Hyslop also demanded university lecturers be subject to the same level of training as college lecturers, describing the HE sector's lack of qualifications as "verging on fraud".

Lena Gray, business manager with the Scottish Qualifications Authority, told delegates that choice, personalisation, flexible learning and assessment, which colleges are already providing, was at the heart of the new curriculum, and that colleges could help the SQA introduce these elements and others into schools.

She added: "Learners in colleges are more satisfied than learners in schools when doing the same course. That's a challenge for us, but it has a lot to do with how colleges deliver courses."

Also at the conference was Alan McLean, principal psychologist in Glasgow, who spoke about his pro-ject to create a training programme on how to motivate learners.

He urged lecturers not to pigeonhole some students as "unmotivated", but asked them to put motivation into context, rather than treat it as a personality trait.

Late adolescence, Mr McLean said, was one of the periods in life when the greatest development took place and the key to motivating that age group would be by understanding and accepting it.

He gave college teaching staff questions to ask themselves about their approaches to teaching which included: how open are your mindsets about students?; how flexible are you?; and how broad is your repertoire of strategies?

Mr McLean commented: "The motivating lecturer has to tune into his or her students. We make the mistake of seeing motivation as an attribute, but it is a process of interaction between the student and the lecture room."

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